Kent State women’s basketball ended the regular season with a 14-point loss to Buffalo. The 58-72 loss was the team’s first loss since a 58-71 loss against Central Michigan on February 19.
The Flashes came into the game against Buffalo with the third seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament locked up. The Bulls came into the game with a chance to finish as high as the sixth seed or as low as the ninth seed.
“Buffalo wanted it more than we did,” coach Todd Starkey said in a postgame radio interview with David Wilson. “They had a lot more to play for. But we’ve got to play more physical than that. We have to play more determined. Hopefully this will fire us up, fuel us up a little bit.”
As the third seed, Kent State has a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament and will play Wednesday in the quarterfinals at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.
“Sometimes coming off of a loss is a better thing going into a tournament because they’ll listen to you a little bit more,” Starkey said. “They aren’t feeling themselves quite as much.”
Buffalo outrebounded Kent State 47-34, with Buffalo grabbing 18 offensive rebounds.
“That’s the most disappointing stat of the game, 18 offensive boards,” Starkey said. “I thought we got out-toughed, and that’s how Buffalo plays. They played very physical, and you have to match that physicality or you’re going to get beat up out there.”
Kent State made only 31.5 percent of its field goal attempts against Buffalo, its third-worst field goal attempts percentage all season. Sophomore Lindsey Thall was the only player to score more than 10 points.
“We needed some other people to step up,” Starkey said. “When we have not been good this year is when we’ve had like one player in double figures, two players in double figures. When we’ve been really good is when we’ve had four or five in double figures.”
With 28 points, Thall scored a little over 48 percent of Kent State’s points. She also made six of Kent State’s eight three-pointers, nine of the team’s 34 rebounds and both of its blocked shots.
“She gave everything she had today and left it out there,” Starkey said.
With this loss, the Flashes finish the MAC season with a 11-7 conference record. They started the conference season with back-to-back losses to Ball State and Eastern Michigan. They ended the month of January with a 4-3 conference record before going 6-3 in February.
“Nonstop throughout the season, it seems like there’s been something right after another," Starkey said. "A lot of times that what people on the outside or fans don’t see, is quite what a team goes through. But to play most of the season without a full complement of starters has been significant. It speaks to this team’s character, the way they have continued to fight and compete.”
Kent State tied with Ohio University for the MAC East Championship. This is the second MAC East Championship Starkey has won with Kent State.
“Short-term memory here,” Starkey said about the loss to Buffalo. “MAC East Championship doesn’t go away. It stays on the books and I’m really proud of that.”
Gina Butkovich is a sports reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.